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UN side event on recognition of Bangladesh genocide

Geneva, 3 October 2022: Speakers at a side event at the United Nations in Geneva demanded international recognition of the Bangladesh genocide in 1971 committed by Pakistan and urged the global community, including the United Nations, to recognise the 1971 genocide.

They said the time is right for recognition of the Bangladesh genocide, adding it is of great importance and an absolute necessity to honour the victims of the 1971 genocide and their descendants through recognition.

The Europe-based diaspora organisation BASUG, in collaboration with the European Bangladesh Forum (EBF) and International Human Rights Commission BD, Switzerland, held the conference during the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. A documentary film made by Amra Ekattor, Projonmo Ekattor and BASUG was screened too.

Chaired by BASUG Chairman Bikash Chowdhury Barua, the side event was addressed by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN in Geneva, Sanchita Haque, former High Court Justice of Sweden, of Pakistani origin, Syed Asif Shahkar, Director of Development Research Cooperation, Brussels, Professor Tazeen Murshid, Brand Ambassador of Bangladesh from Germany Daniel Seidl, Zurich based Swiss InterStrategy Group’s Communications Director Chris Blackburn, exiled Chairman of United Kashmir People’s National Party Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, President of Baloch Voice Association, from France, Munir Mengal, Ansar Ahmed Ullah, President, European Bangladesh Forum, Organising Secretary of All European Muktijoddah  Sangsad Abul Kalam Miah and Khalilur Rahman Mamun, President of International Human Rights Commission Bangladesh, Switzerland.

Justice Syed Ali Shahkar said that for the international recognition of the 1971 genocide and to ensure justice for the victims and their family members, we must form an international commission, including representatives from Pakistan. Justice Syed Ali Shahkar, originally a Pakistani and now exiled in Sweden, is an ardent supporter of Bangladesh. He was a vehement critic of Pakistan’s military role in Bangladesh in 1971, for which he was sent to jail for six months.

In her speech Deputy Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to UN in Geneva, Sanchita Haque said under the leadership of our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the people of Bangladesh fought against discrimination, injustice, and oppression before their liberation in December 1971. During the culmination of our struggle, the Pakistani military carried out the horrendous ‘Operation Search Light’ on 25th March 1971, targeting unarmed civilians. In the following nine months, the Pakistan Army unleashed brutalities, including mass murder, rape, looting, and torture, upon civilians, including children and women, in a deliberate manner to eliminate the Bengalis from the then East Pakistan, which is proudly Bangladesh now.

She added, in Bangladesh, International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) was set up to try the collaborators of the Pakistan Army who played a crucial role in facilitating the genocide. And the ICT is continuing. The Bangladesh Government has declared 25th March as Genocide Day. Bangladesh condemns genocides committed anywhere, everywhere. We will continue to raise our voices against genocide and demand justice and accountability for the victims of genocide. We will also continue working for the recognition of the 1971 genocide.

Prof Dr Tazeen Murshid said the demand for international recognition should never stop. The West Pakistan military sought to destroy Bengalis, their political leadership, the intellectual and professional middle classes, the backbone of society, and students, the future torch bearers of their heritage. It sought to annihilate the Hindu population and work with loyalists willing to do its bidding. Thus, they unleashed their ‘kill and burn’ strategy on the population while recruiting allies from extremist religious groups, Bihari minorities and other loyalists.

She added if an international tribunal is not possible, there could be a public trial in a People’s Court, even if no verdict can be carried out. The aim would be to document individual and collective crimes, debate them and pass sentences to provide a moral victory and closure. Or it could take the form of a Truth Commission. The evidence so gathered should be disseminated widely and at every opportunity.

The Friend of Bangladesh awardee Chris Blackburn said Bangladesh wants international recognition for the crimes against humanity.  It’s probably the most promising time to achieve that goal. The United Nations, like, the United States, must also recognise the conflict as genocide, not just acknowledge the bravery of Archer K. Blood for standing up to the Nixon administration. Blood said it was a genocide. The UN should too. He appealed to the international community. The history of 1971 is also our future. Please do the right and just thing. Recognise the genocide of 1971.

The event was organised by BASUG, EBF, and IHRCBD and supported by Amra Ekattor and Projonmo Ekattor.